Turkey Vulture

Tentative IDed Turkey Vulture Soaring

We were visiting with a neighbor who had come over and I saw this huge bird up the hill right over our pond. Will and Ben later told me it was just 30′ above their heads. Both of us go photos as it dipped and rose on the thermals climbing back over the home field trees and eventually northward.

Over the Trees

With photos and ID charts from the web I’ve tentatively identified this as an adult turkey vulture.

Flapping for Height

At first I thought it might be a juvenile bald eagle – something we had seen about 15 years ago. We have marshes in the valley so an eagle might check them out before realizing there are no fish. There’s also the upper pond which does have fish in it.

Soaring High

But using the zoom on the cameras and cropping in on the photos I could see the red head of the turkey vulture as well as the feather patterns better. I’m not 100% sure since I don’t see either very often and they’re pretty similar. If I had gotten a closer photo I would have more confidence in my ID. Perhaps some of you have more experience with birds and can ID it.[1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Not a Turkey Vulture or an Eagle

This one I am sure is not a turkey vulture or an eagle. It was way too loud and flapped continuously. This not-a-bird showed up just after the real bird.

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14 Responses to Turkey Vulture

  1. Edgwick Farm says:

    Yes, it is definitely a turkey vulture. We have hundreds here in town and at times 40 or 50 will perch on a dead tree in the sun, drying their wings. Very creepy.

  2. Brian Martin says:

    Walt you ID that bird right on the money! They are gliding their way south. This is one of the first signs that summer is slowly fading away. Noticed an increase in crows? They are leaving too. Just another sign.

  3. Marie says:

    I saw 6 from my office window just this afternoon. We often see one or two at a time, but six is unusual.

    Brian Martin – I hope you’re right about the crows – or maybe yours just winter in Rhode Island! I wish these guys would leave…

  4. Nance says:

    here in Iowa they are so common that they don’t even instigate commentS. Driving home from work, I ‘ve seen 10 or 12 at a time, gliding, soaring. in the late afternoon sky.

  5. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Yes that is a turkey vulture, a Cathartes subspecies, of which there are six or so in N. America. A few months ago, one of those was being sent from the Atlanta Zoo to the Basle Zoo in Germany. Critter was crated, and a deceased Opossum and a departed Raccoon were included so the big bird could eat en route: even for Zoo beasties there is a quarantine period.

    Unfortunately, at the last minute, Delta refused to carry the vulture: seems they have a drop-dead policy of only one Carrion luggage per passenger.

  6. Teresa says:

    We have a lot of them around here, too. They are certainly big and impressive.

  7. mellifera says:

    Yup, we have about a bajillion of those down here in FL (all those roadkilled armadillos have to go somewhere….)

    One fine Sunday I stepped out of the church building with our fussy little baby to see a storm rolling in, preceded by a humongous flock of vultures. It looked like they’d been all been gliding over their various posts around town minding their own business, and as the storm came in it licked them out of their thermals and carried them along for the ride. They were in a big loose band just under the “anvilhead” of the storm, so it was already dark and ominous as they coasted in, and there must have been some good upward thermal currents in that area ahead of the storm– they were cruising around in great tall spiralling gyres and stacks. I countstimated about 300-400. It was nuts. Definitely one of the weirdest non-manmade things I’ve ever seen.

    • Wow! 300 to 400 at once! Sounds like a movie by Hitchock. I’ve seen one…? We don’t get these birds very often. About 15 years ago we had a young bald eagle, I think. Looked sort of similar but I don’t remember the white on the wing.

  8. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Surest way to identify one of the turkey vultures is the dihedral wing shape. That is, the upper surfaces of the wings look like two facets of a geometrical shape. Also, like the Buteos hawks and eagles, they have protruding finger feathers on the tips of their wings to add to their phenomenal soaring control. I don’t know if you ever look at Facebook, but if you do, go to my site (David Lloyd Sutton) where I have a sun-drying vulture on my “friends” album.
    That one had become accustomed to my throwing out a groundsquirrel, fruit of my .22, every afternoon. That day it landed on the garden sink, and waited for lunch. They are smart and efficient. I have seen four of them consume a one hundred pound blacktail buck in less than five hours!

  9. et says:

    They come by a friend’s farm every afternoon – just checking to see if anyone’s died. No? Back again tomorrow….

  10. Nance says:

    now, Walter, I would love to see an eagle . . . bald or otherwise! Vultures, Turkey buzzards, we have a plenty.

  11. mellifera says:

    Yeah, it was pretty nuts. Would’ve been better if I’d had a camera….

    We have a lot of birds of prey here, I guess the year-round food supply helps. Our campus built a bat house (sort of a big shed on stilts) to relocate a colony that had taken to roosting and pooping all over the basketball arena, and the bat house is right by our apartment. People come by every night to hang out and watch them emerge en masse. Ditto for a family of redtail hawks that “own” the area. Around dusk they sit around on top of the bat house like the darling little fat lards they are, sort of lazily coasting down and gobbling up any bats that come out while it’s still early enough to be seen. Nature at work. : )

    • You’re description of the hawks eating the bats reminds me of an amazing cave entrance scene in the BBC “Blue Planet” movie series where that happens. It is hawks molding bat evolution, making them later.

      We have a lot of bats who live in our old farm house. There used to be more but there seems to be less this year. I fear that fungus problem hit them. I had hoped that since they were not in a humid cave they were okay.

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